My wife’s family has a cabin on a lake very near the boundary waters just outside of Ely, Minnesota.
Ely, Minnesota is a wonderful place. One of the primary egress and ingress points for the Boundary Water Canoe Area. It’s also got that friendly Minnesota small-town feel but due to the enormous amount of tourists and travelers the have an economy and businesses that are similar to a much bigger population.
Flew up to Mansfield, Ohio this morning with my pilot buddy Jared. It’s not a long flight there and back but then the weather forecast was not looking so perfect either. Nothing against Mansfield, Ohio, but we didn’t particularly want to get stuck there through a thunderstorm.
Weather was reported as marginal VFR at KOSU when we took off and looked like this as we took off from runway 9R:
Moderately low cloud cover. Felt like it was going to storm at any moment and the radar said we had about an hour and a half or so. Just enough time to get to Mansfield and back.
Flying north, we were able to get ahead of the weather and things opened up for a beautiful morning over Alum Creek.
We caught the last remnants of fog escaping the ground as we closed on KMFD and flew through a few wisps as we descended towards runway 14.
Then finally, a right base-to-final turn onto the runway to complete the first leg of the flight.
Jared and I swapped roles during the stop-and-go landing at Mansfield and he took off while I acted as safety pilot.
There’s a neat little private airport community just to the east of Alum Creek. They’ve got a private grass runway and hangars for community use. Never landed there but was able to get a decent shot of it today.
Then finally, we moved into the rain as we approached our origin at Ohio State. The tower was manned by then but no flight activity at the field, so we were cleared to land while still about five miles out.
And here’s a YouTube video of the flight if you want to watch live.
I took my friend Denny up in the plane today. He was a flight attendant in a previous career so he was no stranger to airplanes but this happened to be his first time in a small airplane.
It was a bit windy, 16 knots gusting to 24 from the southwest. KOSU made that just extra easy by having a nice runway heading the same direction.
We took off from runway 23 and proceeded to meander our way around northwest Columbus before contacting ATC to coordinate a little sight seeing over campus and downtown.
Denny got a nice shot of the Oval and a piece of high street.
Since we were right in the way of departing traffic from the big airport, we scurried south a bit to take a loop around downtown Columbus.
This is a shot Denny took from just west of the city. The Scioto River is the beautiful brown waterway running through the shot.
After playing around the city, it was time to get out of the path of departing traffic and play around with the clouds.
Clouds were at around 10,000 feet today so we spent about 15 minutes climbing to that height over Delaware, Ohio.
Then it was time to let Denny have the controls. As an ex flight-attendant, he was a natural. No fear of the plane. Just comfortably put us in a few unusual attitudes on accident that I had to correct so we didn’t die.
Sun was setting. Time to get home. Wind was coming down just a little bit but still a bit gusty. Since the plane is so small and gets kicked around by even relatively light winds, we did a no-flap landing at a little faster speed in order to have a little more rudder authority.
I’ve wanted to fly to Saint James since I got my pilot license. It was so nice to skip the commercial flight and rental car and land within 5 minutes of my destination. Having the whole in-law family plus some to see me land and pick me up at the airport was an extra treat.
As long as I had the plane in Saint James and the weather was clear, it was a good idea to take a short tour of the town from the air. I went begging for a bit to find someone willing to climb into the right seat of the airplane but eventually convinced an only slightly worried sister-in-law to be designated photographer.
Grandma-in-law’s place on St. James lake.
We did a quick fly-by of the in-law’s home and they even came out to wave.
It was a short circuit around the town but it was a lot of fun to see it from the air.
So 0 year-old daughter and wife went to wife’s Minnesota hometown of Saint James to visit parents and our daughter’s great-grandmother. Since my wife is on maternity leave and I was working that week, she left a few days earlier than I did and I caught up for the weekend. The weather forecasts looked good enough that I felt confident flying private rather than commercial.
Weather forecasts are bullsh*t. Columbus, sunny all day. I had to find a hole through THIS to even get going.
But, after a 2 hour delay, I found an opening worth going for and climbed through it to get over the top of the cloud layer. Unending clouds is just about what I saw for nearly an hour as I worked my way northwest.
My direct route crossed through Chicago airspace. Some of the busiest airspace in the world. Since I needed to re-fuel anyway, I stopped in Gary, Indiana and topped off the tanks before skirting Northwest along the coastline and under Chicago’s class-B airspace. This allowed a nice daytime shot of the Chicago Skyline:
Saw quite a few other planes in the area. Everyone staying below the Chicago airports’ control space.
Once north of Chicago I turned west again towards St. James. It wasn’t long before I crossed over Harper’s Ferry, Iowa and got a great shot of the Mississippi.
You might be thinking, is that THE Harper’s Ferry I read about in the history books? Nope. That one is in West Virginia. But if you want to know something really weird, here’s a piece of trivia you won’t find anywhere else:
Harper’s Ferry, IA (on the Mississippi) started out as Harpers Ferry (no apostrophe). The apostrophe was later added.
Harpers Ferry, WV (famous, no apostrophe) started out as Harper’s Ferry. The apostrophe was later removed.
Anyway, started to get a little closer to St. James and the sun also started to set.
And then just a short while later I was there with all the in-law family to greet me. It was one great welcoming.
Ever since I was in undergrad at Virginia Tech, I’ve always wanted to fly into the Blacksburg airport. I finally made that happen this past weekend. The flight plan was to leave Columbus on Friday morning and fly southeast to Richmond Virginia (KOFP) where my old college friend Matt lives. Pick up Matt in Richmond and fly to Blacksburg. If everything went according to plan, we would be in Blacksburg by Friday at about 3pm.
Things didn’t go as planned.
Despite clear blue skies for practically the entire month, THIS weekend, my entire route was overcast with low cloud covered ceilings.
The picture on the right shows my route on the way out of Columbus. The ceiling is not uncomfortably low here in the city, but as I approach the Appalachians it gets worse.
I like to see quarries and mines from the air. It’s always interesting. Especially seeing a mining operation from such a height that you can see how small it is in the scope of the land around it. It’s reassuring that when you think that one of these places is a huge polluter or destroyer of the earth, that you can see that it is instead just a tiny blip in an enormous swath of untapped land. The planet is simply humongous. The mining operation on the left is the Buckingham Coal Mine a little south of Corning, Ohio.
Just a little to the southeast is Burr Oak State Park. Besides quarries and mines, rivers and bodies of water are my next favorite subject to photograph. This makes me want to get my float plane certification.
After this, I was off to West Virginia!
West Virginia is beautiful but that Friday, the cloud cover was very low. 4,000 feet was generous and the mountains were going up to 5,200 feet in places. I passed by a couple towns after crossing the Ohio River: Crystal Lake (left) and West Union in the picture just under that. Then, after getting over some of the smaller foothills and one of the first or second line of major ridges, I got blocked in by clouds and couldn’t go any further.
There was no choice but to land at a local airport and wait out the overcast skies. You don’t want to cross these ridges without visibility. Here I am stuck in Elkins, West Virginia waiting out the clouds:
Antrim Lake is a small lake along the Olentangy River to the north of Columbus. There is an improved path that loops around the lake and it is a popular spot for joggers, dog walkers, and stroller-pushers.
There’s even a “secret” unimproved dirt path that runs in a wider loop around the lake if you want to let your dog off-leash to really run around or just want to avoid the more crowded regular loop.
This was a picture I took on the way back from my private pilot checkride today. What’s that mean? It means I’m officially a licensed pilot. Not a student pilot with some solo privileges. For any non-pilots reading this, you probably don’t care about the checkride so this is a shot of Alum Creek from the north. You’re looking at the creek part of Alum Creek close to me, and also the lake part of Alum Creek off further in the distance which most people in Columbus are more familiar with.
In the gallery of photos below, I also have a picture of a rainstorm as I skirted around it as well as a few more shots of Alum Creek (lake-part).
For any pilots reading this, the checkride was very much the most nervous test-taking environment since I took the Bar Exam. My examiner kept things relatively conversational and easy-going, but honestly I don’t think my muscles have been so tight since the first time I solo-landed an airplane.
We had to dodge a little weather and I had to dodge a bit on the way home, so here’s a few pictures of the rain cloud and the only good shot I could get between the way up and the way back.
Today I was up dodging small thunderstorms. Good thing there’s a huge fan at the front of the plane to blow all the water off the windshield.
O’Shaughnessy Reservoir is our #2 go-to destination for wakeboarding which we use as a back-up whenever Grigg’s is going to be too busy. Today we saw one rider but on the south side of the reservoir we got a decent view of a sail boat race. Based on what I saw, it looks like we caught them at the turn.